A Pandemic Education: COVID-19 in Beaver County

"When we shut down for two weeks, I thought, oh it’s just gonna be two weeks,
I can deal with two weeks..."

Ravyn is one of thousands of students in Beaver County whose education was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To prevent the spread of the virus, Governor Tom Wolf announced April 9th that all schools in the Commonwealth would be closed for the remainder of the academic year.

This creative audio montage features sound clips of federal, state, and local Beaver County government officials; television, internet, and radio news reporting; educational experts and educators; and community members.

Working, and now schooling from home was a big change the whole family.

“Even though we did have some technology, it was going to be hard to navigate how all 3 were going to be on, at the same time. Sometimes, parents don’t have the resources, and in this case, we didn’t.”

Tanisha wanted to mimic the flow of a normal school day as much as possible for her kids, which was impossible without additional resources to support remote learning.

Coach Felicia Mycyk reached out to help after seeing her post on social media.

“I grew up with a Mom that was very, very giving. She taught us to give. You give till it hurts because that’s what you’re called to do."

“When CoronaTime happened, I remember sitting at home knowing my husband was losing his job and being crushed because I wouldn’t be able to give till it hurts because I was going to be one of the people using the food pantry.”

Thankfully, Cindy Deschaine didn’t lose her job, or the opportunity to serve our community. One of a team of eight people at the Great Grouping (of Catholic parishes: Sts. John and Paul in Franklin Park, Our Lady of Peace in Conway, St. John the Baptist in Baden, and Good Samaritan in Ambridge), she’s been working to make sure our neighbors have enough to eat and, through the technology drive, that students have the tools they need to continue learning.

"This place was really great for me, what can I do to help out the future?"

While Dr. Ken Cirka lives in New York City and runs a successful dental practice in Philadelphia, he’s never forgotten his Beaver County roots or the values and people that shaped him.

An Ambridge native, he recalls his Dad working long hours at J&L Steel in Aliquippa, coming home late, getting up early, but always making time to volunteer for charities like the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Beaver County. “Almost every weekend we would do something as a family to support that cause.”

Describing his Dad as “a humble person with a big heart,” Dr. Cirka carries on that legacy by supporting local efforts “to help people get their basic needs met” in the Ambridge, Baden, and Aliquippa communities.

He donated 37 computers to the drive for Ambridge high school students, helping them secure a device for every family that expressed a need.

“Over the years I’ve noticed that material things do not make you happy. The way you get happiness in this world is really treating others as you wish to be treated.

It’s as simple as the golden rule that we were taught when we were kids.”

“I didn’t realize that there were actually people in the community that hear you. . . I was so filled with joy because someone actually heard that our kids need technology for their education. It made me feel proud to be part of the Ambridge community.”

The community technology drive for Ambridge High School students organized by Coach Felicia Mycyk and Ambridge Connection, in partnership with Good Samaritan Parish, helped 127 families that received a computer.

On June 10th, the Ambridge Area School District emailed parents a survey to gauge the remaining need for technology to support distance learning for students. “The community is an important stakeholder and we value your input as we plan for the return of school in the fall,” the district said. Plans are underway to provide iPads to all students when they return to school next year.

“We were all excited, we were like: we can finally do our work! Before, we were getting our homework in late because everybody had to do one laptop. It makes me thankful that the community cares about the kids and try to help them 100% of the time.”

Ravyn is preparing to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania this fall to study nursing. She looks forward to “bring life into the world” as a midwife, and received her diploma on Saturday, June 7th at a graduation ceremony organized by the school.

Keep up with education and other important community issues by following Ambridge Connection on their website and Facebook page.

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